Cigarettes After Sex For The First Time at The Underground
Popping a musical cherry
So. I wondered, quite aloud, what a band, whose music seemed most fitted to having sex to, getting high to, or falling asleep to, would sound and feel like live. Purposefully, I avoided as much live footage of the band as I could beforehand as to go in unbiased and uninformed. The experience was, I have to say, close to what I expected, with a few surprises.
The band ran no background images behind them, instead opting for performing in front of a simple black curtain while pumping smoke continuously on stage throughout the performance and using white lighting only, which evoked a black and white film noir setting. Frontman Greg Gonzalez struck a cooler than his sleeve rolled up black leather jacket pose would suggest, and lead the band through a little over an hour’s worth of material from their two releases, the I. EP and their eponymous LP. The band also played their cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” that they became popular for early on in their career. Their live performance recreated the sound of their recorded music flawlessly, and the same type of subtle subtext and rhythmic seduction of the senses their music suggests as recorded was projected loud and clear live. Their unique sound, poorly, but in a strangely accurate way, described as being akin to something like if Black Rebel Motorcycle Club played Dark Wave covers of Mazzy Star songs, was captivating all the more so live, not in the least because Gonzalez’s voice came across with a more audibly commanding tone live than it does on their records.
Cigarettes After Sex, the brainchild of the aforementioned Greg Gonzalez, formed in El Paso, TX and relocated to Brooklyn, NY after he did. The band, being one of the new wave of social media fame bands, became popular through YouTube exposure, and rose to touring level fame shortly thereafter which, in turn, lead to having their single “Nothing’s Going To Hurt You Baby” being featured in The Handmaid’s Tale, The Sinner, and Shameless. Amazingly, they weren’t featured in the recent Twin Peaks revival, as their sound would have fit in perfectly, and, as I mentioned in the Cigs After Sex show preview, they would be right at home at the Bang Bang Bar. There’s a certain level of dismay underneath their shoegaze/ambient pop sound that is not unlike that which simmers under much of Trent Reznor or The Cure’s music. Wiith Cigs After Sex though, the spirit is more akin to a quiet acceptance and reflection-sometimes with a twinge of snarky humor-on the apocalyptic aftermath of relationships failed and unrequited rather than a rage against the oncoming eventuality of our demise, be it spiritual, emotional, or relational. Cigs After Sex’s music, like all smart music of its type, is deceptively simple, but can have a powerful, and deeply cognitive and emotional, affect on its listeners.
The Underground, with its intimate setting and dimly lit hall, was just as perfect a venue for Cigs After Sex to swoon their crowd in as it was for JaggerMouth to rock theirs in last autumn. Being able to be so close to a band, as the crowd is able to be at The Underground, always makes for an intimate experience, and with Cigs After Sex it was no different. “This is the first time we’ve played Charlotte, and we love you guys!” announced Gonzalez to the cheering crowd early on in the show. Somehow, by the end of the show, I suspected it wouldn’t be the last last time they played Charlotte. Cigarettes After Sex’s music might have plenty of practical purposes, but absorbing it live really does turn out to be one of the best uses for it.